A One On One With John Zappala
The County Government hasn’t changed yet because no one has asked John Zappala how to fix it.
Zappala, a long time resident of Lakewood and self employed contractor, is the only Lakewoodite running for the new Cuyahoga County Council. The seat he is looking to occupy is the District 2 seat which would represent Lakewood, Westpark and Brookpark.
“It’s important for the citizens of Lakewood, in light of the fact that they have this opportunity...to elect someone from this city to represent the needs of this city,” said Zappala. “There are issues and things about Lakewood, Westpark and Brookpark that are similar in scope and need to be represented on the council. The uniqueness of the 2nd District needs to be safeguarded.”
When asked why he decided to run for County Council, Zappala cites irresponsible past leadership and the overall lack of respect for taxpayer money in the county government.
“It is absolutely imperative that from the ground up [the county government] starts living within the means of [its] budgets, just like your household and my household need to live within the means we have before us,” said Zappala about getting the county “fiscal house” in order. “There has to be a way to provide the services that are mandated and or required by law as well as those which are just neighborly, to be provided within the available budget.”
Beyond running a more responsible financial agenda, Zappala aspires to bring some common sense to the council, to not only remind them that the money they use must be well spent as these checks were not written by faceless masses, but were “written at people’s kitchen tables.”
“People need to be encouraged and lifted up by the things and the services that the county government can provide for them,” said Zappala. “It’s not just maintaining the things that are already there and it’s not just doing what is required. We want to encourage them to be residents of Cuyahoga County, to do these essential functions in a way that doesn't allow for corruption, fraud and deceit. Too much of the way things have been left the doors opened for that kind of violation or misuse of the public trust.”
Zappala believes that two of the most important issues that are not only near and dear to his heart, but have a special relevance in Lakewood, are housing and business. While he acknowledges that the housing stock, the vital lynchpin of Lakewood’s economy, is not as bad as other places, he feels that more could be done to improve existing issues and encourage growth.
“I think the county needs to take the lead in [the housing issue],” said Zappala noting additionally the recurring problems of absentee landlords and homes that are abandoned and in disrepair. “I run a business, I am a landlord. I know how to make things happen. I know the answer to all these landlord problems in this community.”
On the issue of business in Lakewood, Zappala wants to help develop a kind of “business ambassadorship” for the county that would work to incentivize business owners to come to the region. He feels that additionally, work could be done to find out how to better utlize the existing infrastructure to help provide opportunities for these businesses to develop and grow.
“I think the county needs to take the lead because they can put pressure on getting things changed at the state level and then encourage local communities to get involved,” said Zappala. “That is where regionalism works best. There needs to be some cooperation for utilizing infrastructure because it is so vital to making other issues go away. Tax receipts go up and there are stronger families. What is happening now is the antithesis of all that.”
“Once a business owner opens up his checkbook, he now has a stake in the community and the people in it.”
Leadership can come from all levels of the county government, but Zappala feels that someone needs to help build a coalition within the region to generate ideas and visions that people can get behind. He cites the fact that recent discussions about regionalization of police and fire have not been happening in a way that “people are excited about” and therefore aren’t moving forward.
As to why he feels he is a good choice for the County Council, Zappala attributes it to his understanding of the needs of the county and the needs of the people in it.
“I am a business owner, I work for somebody everyday. I know what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck, to raise a family, to put kids in college, buy health care and make a payroll,” said Zappala. “Those type of qualities have a much better chance of succeeding on this council. My goal is to work for the residents in my district. They expect me to go out and be their voice, make the right decision and influence the expenditures the county is making in a way that doesn’t abuse the system. I can guarantee that if I am fortunate enough to be elected I will open my mouth. I will demand the accountability and integrity of any elected official.”
Not only is he a proponent of coordinating communities, but Zappala plans on going door to door in his community to not only educate voters on what the County Council is, but why he is the right man for the job.
“The goal of the campaign is to give them the truth about what is going on at County Council, so they can make an informed decision,” said Zappala. “I believe that once someone meets me and understands who I am and what I represent that they might [vote for me over someone else].”
With a 51 year history in the community, he acknowledges that his name recognition might help him win.
“I think people are smart enough to make the right decisions if they have the right information. The choice is clear,” said Zappala. “I just want people to know that I can be the voice of common sense and reason on that council. I believe that my conversations at the county level have nothing to do with partisanship as much as they have to do with responsibility and integrity.”